Changing North Korea’s Public Imagination

A number of scholars (Bogues 2006; Daniels 2010; Hawkins 2010) have argued that the imagination is a critical, and often overlooked, element in understanding such geopolitical realities and the way “publics” produce and process such realities. (O’Donnell, 2013) The imagination O’Donnell was referring to is the notion of a public imagination. The notion of the media influencing the public imagination in regards to nationalism was explored, in the context of China, by Guo, Cheong and Chen (2007). In this article they outline the importance of the digital media in maintains the nationalist imagination of how China should look to its own people and the outside world.

North Korean nationalist zeal is manifested by the Government’s total control of the media within that country and its ability to block incoming media to protect the public imagination of its citizens. This is also the theme of many information channels reporting on the situation in North Korea.

Could there be a North Korean “Spring”?

January 14, 2014, 9:43 pm ET by Sarah Childress

This article, and others like it reinforce the notion of the protection of the public imagination and first-hand accounts from people who were within the propaganda department of the North Korean government. They tell of their job helping to maintain the public image to the population until their eyes were opened by what they saw from outside. The North Korean government will stop at nothing to block information, which will shake the fabric of the nationalist image, from outside – even executing those who seek information from outside sources. However, the primary weapon in the information arsenal of North Korea is the creation of an alternate reality. Kim Jong Un encourages his people to think any information from the outside world is corrupt lies manifested by the imperialist world of the west, designed to destroy national unity in North Korea.

To change the public imagination of the population of North Korea the dissidents will need to have access to and be able to broadcast in formation to the population. With the strangle hold the regime of Kim Jong Un has on digital media in and out of the country this will be almost impossible and in some instances fatal. With no social media, open access to the Internet and exposure to TV and other medias out of South Korea sourcing information to accomplish this will be desperately difficult.

Zhongshi Guo, Weng Hin Cheong, and Huailin Chen. Nationalism as Public Imagination: The Media’s Routine Contribution to Latent and Manifest Nationalism in China International Communication Gazette October 2007 69: 467-480, doi:10.1177/1748048507080873


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